Category Archives: Coffee Roasters

I was @ Sussmund Kaffeebar, Vienna


A few weeks back a colleague sent an e-mail inviting me and two other guys to meet for lunch because she had never met three people so passionate about coffee. she thought it a good idea to get some coffee geeks together – a great idea. Because before we knew it, we even had a name”Specialty Coffee Society” – we just need to check if we can officially create one at the UN in Vienna. Before you knew it we were exchanging ideas on coffee and just this past weekend we decided to check a cafe out to start our “coffee crawl” missions. So, we decided to try out Sussmund – which means “sweet mouth” in English – how appropriate.

To be honest I’ve heard about Sussmund for a while now. Started by Nikolaus Hartmann, the roaster – it focused firstly on selling roasted coffee to cafes and restaurants, and it still does. One of my fave cafes in Vienna, Cafe Jonas Reindl, usually has sussmund coffee on their grinder as their house blend. In fact for a few months they also had a pop up shop in the heart of Vienna, which I was lucky to visit and had a piccolo (made like a cortado)  see below, where I also met with Nikolaus and had a chat about how he started, his mission and vision too.


But I’m glad to report that at the moment they have a mainstay, Sussmund Kaffee just off the centre, located on Dominikanerbastei 11 • A-1010 Wien – opposite the iconic post office, designed by the renowned architect, Otto Wagner. The cafe is actually located inside a furniture concept store, so you can grab a cup of coffee and sit on designer furniture and relax – of course if you really like the furniture, you can buy it too.

A little smallish but they have all gadgets – the Black Eagle espresso machine, all the filter brewing options using their coffees, roasted coffee for sale and brewing gadgets and accessories.

To try out this espresso milk based skills – you know my pattern now – I tried a cortado using a fruity coffee from Ethiopia and my colleague followed suit. 


She was so intrigued that coffee could taste sweet and not need any sugar and more importantly leave a pleasant fell in her mouth – another convert made to the world of coffee can actually taste sweet and not bitter. In fact, I said that we don’t usually describe coffee as “bitter” but more appropriately, “sour”, running through the 5 taste elements of sweet, sour, salty, hot and finally umami. So, I digress come d’habitude.

For our second round we went full on filter, Hario V60 and Aeropress. I tried a berry medium acidity Guatemalan coffee, complimented by what I must say a rather French tasting croissant – i.e. it was really good. Also on offer, before I forget are chocolate brownie cakes, banana, walnut and chocolate bread, pastries and other treats.


Very laboratory orientated.

A nice brew, sweet and sour at the same time. I also waited for it to cool down to check if it would get more sour, but it didn’t, yay!


We really enjoyed the kaffee – it was Saturday, so very relaxed and before we knew it 2 hours had passed drinking coffee and getting to know each other. Looking forward to our next venture, which I hope will be a cupping session at another cafe, so watch this space for more on the Vienna Specialty Coffee Society.

Before I leave, of course, I recommend visiting Sussmund – check their website too here

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I was @ Hornig Coffee: A new Coffee shop in Vienna


I came across a booklet highlighting all the happening shops and eateries in Vienna and when I saw a picture of a new coffeeshop in Vienna that I hadn’t heard off, I was excited mainly because they talked about their commitment to coffee and the picture showed an array of a brew bar complete with uber boiler, and V60 brewing stations. So, it was on my radar for my next coffee exploit.

Luckily for me, when I decided to visit on Saturday, 5 days back – a freshly brewed post – I digress, I was drawn to a little commotion just outside the shop on Siebensterngasse 29, in Vienna’s 7th district – people handing out freebies. As I got closer, I noticed it was cold brew coffee. When was the last time I walked down a street and people were handing out free coffee – like never. I thought, this is my lucky day. Asked if I wanted to taste, my answer was in my eyes. Excited, I tried some and started chatting to some of the staff and before I knew it was in full blown conversation with the owner, Johannes Hornig himself.



Very unassuming , down to earth and modest and willing to share as much info about their vision and aspirations, we chatted with a friend of mine for about a hour about coffee, the world, Brexit and more.
Before I delve into my coffee experience a bit about them.

So, it turns out that Hornig have been around for a while and have been drum roasting since 1912, over a 100 years of coffee experience. They are probably second only to the famous Julius Meinl Coffee roaster in terms of sales with a strong market share in the bottom/southern half of Austria, being located in Graz, Austria’s second largest city. They focus on direct trade coffee, visiting coffee growers mainly from Ethiopia, Brazil and Guatemala to ensure they source the best coffee possible and have a well developed online shop where you can buy their coffees. Although they have a huge client base, selling coffee to cafes and restaurants, training baristas too, their coffee shop in Vienna is their first and perhaps the first of many. CEO since 2015, Johannes IV (yes his father, grandfather and father were all called Johannes) plans to take them further.

so to the coffee….


First up, of course is their cold brew, apparently also available in some Austrian supermarkets. They use their Brazilian coffee as their base to ensure low to medium acidity, because as you know, when coffee gets cold, the sourness begins to dominate and if you use a very fruity or high acidity coffee it can become quite sour as it gets cold. So, an easy to drink cold brew that should satisfy most palates. I grabbed a bottle to take home and save for a late summer day in September to try over ice or as an indulgent dessert with ice cream.


To test their espresso milk based skills, I ordered a double shot cortado, prepared by their chief barista, Barbara, for which they used their house espresso blend (80% Brazilian and 20% Guatemala). So, I detected a nutty base with an underlying fruitiness, which is what I experienced in the middle of my tongue.

So, I’ve saved the best for last – a filter brew using their Ethiopian coffee, a natural Arabica coffee variety of Illubabor Diduon, grown at over 1,800m, produced in a very small batches, close to 5-6 tonnes a year – apparently the minimum quantity as I was informed by Johannes, who has personally met the farmer himself. I asked for it to be brewed on the Hario V60. Wow! the tastes were quite exceptional, like a carnival in your mouth – floral, fruity spice bomb.

See PIC on top as my phone crashed and I lost all my other pics….

I was so intrigued by it, sipping it slowly until it got cooler. I asked Johannes about it and he explained how it had been sourced and how he had met the farmer. I didn’t leave the shop, without buying a bag to take home.

Also on offer in the shop are sandwiches, other drinks and some sweet bites, banana bread, brownies and others – I had a lemon slice, reminiscent of the sort I find in London coffee shops. At the moment they open everyday until 8pm, which I think is the latest any decent coffee shop opens in Vienna – good to know if I’m on the way to the movies and need a decent cuppa to get me through.

So, I’m happy to see another third wave coffee shop open in Vienna, where you can try  coffee in different ways.

Visit their online shop to learn here

They are located at Siebensterngasse 29, 1070, not far from Mariahilfer Strasse – one of the main shopping streets in Vienna


The Tasting Files II: Good Coffee


This is like a prelude or prequel to my first post, because I think my palate got so used to tasting good coffee, I was beginning to take it for granted. Perhaps that’s why I decided to venture outside my comfort zone of world class roasters like Square mile coffee, JB Kaffee, Workshop Coffee, Balthasar-Vienna, Tim Wendelboe and the like and try something different. I wanted to challenge my coffee palate and see if I could detect a pronounced difference.

So, after my previous post, where I tasted coffee from a tin, highlight the high and lows of my experience, I defaulted to my comfort zone. So, what does good coffee taste like ?


It tastes good. Is that it ?  Okay, here’s more…

It smells good – when my son was much younger, like about 5 – although he didn’t like coffee and still doesn’t – only my daughter followed my path – he got excited when he saw new bags of coffee in the house because he loved squeezing the vacuum outlet to ingest the lovely aroma. I liken children, at least under 10 to be like angels – they know the good stuff when they see it, or in this case, smell it. 

The roasters usually describe their coffee in very exotic terms – I recall the old and original square mile coffee bags with large type-write of the predominant taste profiles. In fact, back then, the best coffee roasters had the best bags. You got excited, just by looking and touching them.

Before I continue…. there’s a downside if I can call it one.

Good coffee is so precious that when you try to find the right type of grind for espresso, so that you pull a great shot of about 45ml in 20-25 seconds, etc, you want to ,make sure you get it right the first time, because otherwise you’re just throwing good coffee away – aargh! I think that is why I got a bit excited with espresso but more so with filter grind, as you can’t really get the wrong type of grind – you can tweak it, but you don’t have to throw away 15g of coffee as opposed to 18-20 grammes of espresso grind coffee every time you get it wrong.

so may be there’s two downsides….

espresso grind is so temperamental that it changes so slightly with the weather, especially in the summer. One night, it’s a bit cooler and a grind setting just works – the next morning as you’re rushing to work and don’t have time to check settings, the coffee rushes out, leaving you with a sharp tasting daily cappuccino – aargh! Okay, not so filter grind with a hario V60.

Let’s move on and taste this thing.

Once you get used to good and great tasting coffee, it just seems right – everything is balanced – by this I mean there’s no unusual taste trying to break out of your taste bud system like corn when it pops in the microwave. I think this is probably one of the best judgement of good coffee – BALANCE.

sure, sometimes something strikes you and you’re like “what is that?” BUT it’s a pleasant kind of feeling that bring a smile to your face and if you believe you just say “praise God!” as He was the source of creating such a beautiful thing that can taste so different, albeit look so ordinary.


Good coffee caresses your taste buds – your whole mouth enjoys the experience – it wraps around your tongue and travels from the top of the tongue to the back of your tongue with different taste profiles – the experience is just wow! How can something taste one way at the beginning and another at the end – I remember the first time I tasted Intelligentisia Black Cat Espresso Blend over 10 years ago – see here.

Good coffee lasts  and great coffee lasts even longer. By this I mean after drinking the coffee you can still experience it, sometimes up to 30 minutes after. In fact that’s why I never drink water or eat anything after drinking coffee – I don’t want to spoil the experience. I don’t recall any other drink or food still giving me a tasty experience after I’ve consumed it.


Good coffee leaves you wanting – by this I mean once all those high notes have been reached, you just default to whatever coffee or roaster helped you experience that. I guess that’s how you create a great customer base – get it right the first time and all the time and they’ll keep coming back.

I think that’s enough for now. Never take anything good for granted, especially coffee. Perhaps that;s why my wife calls me a coffee snob – I just can’t compromise on drinking bad coffee and trust me, whenever I’ve slipped, I’ve regretted it and I suffer on two accounts – a screaming tongue followed by an angst stomach. It’s just not worth it.

Well done to all those great coffee roasters who do their jib well and keep up the standard.

Peace!

 

 


The Tasting Files: Coffee from a Tin


Sometimes you get so used to something, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone and drinking good coffee is no exception. So, I was thinking “does all good coffee taste the same” and dare I say it “good coffee tastes the same”. So, when I miscalculated my coffee ordering and buying regime, I popped into a shop and thought, may be I should try this coffee from a tin again that people (non-coffee connoisseurs) are always saying to me, “you should try this”, so I picked up coffee from a tin, aka Illy coffee. 


Before I share my experience, it must be said that I used to buy Illy coffee many years ago, both the espresso and filter versions. So how was my experience after about 9 years;

First up, the packaging is nice – it’s like a nice thing to give away as a present or decorate your kitchen with.

Second, once you open the tin for the first time, I have to confess, the aroma is actually breath taking – it kind of takes you back to a cafe in Italy – it’s literally “Italian caffe culture in a tin”.

Third, it looks good. By this, I mean the crema is reddish brown, which means that a properly extracted espresso will look great and a well crafted cappuccino will look good because it will be easy to pour properly frothed milk to make lovely looking patterns with a great contrast of dark reddish cream and silky white milk.


Fourthly, it is not that difficult to extract a perfect espresso. The Illy blend of apparently 9 coffees from around the World, mainly Brazil, is not complicated and for consistency sake, you won’t have to make any major adjustments to the grinder as the coffee gets older.


Now, how about the most important part… the taste. For the sake of not being sued, the taste won’t make your taste buds sing if like me, you have been used to ordering coffee from the top micro coffee roasters in the World – there you go, I missed my regular coffee roasters stash.

Illy coffee will smell nice, pull easily, look great as an espresso and a cappuccino but may not taste nice – no pun intended here.

As usual, I don’t regret things nor experiences as they only add to life’s experiences. I’m grateful for the experience of tasting Illy coffee again after so many years, using a great espresso machine.


I was @ %Arabica, Dubai Mall – Dubai


I always knew that using a name like “arabica” for a cafe in an area predominantly occupied by Arabs would be a winner. In fact when I was debating whether to open cafe in Cape Town or Dubai back in 2009, the name I had tried to approach potential investors for Dubai was… “Cafe Arabica”. I thought back then and it has proven now as you will see in a few lines below that people will resonate well with an establishment that recognises their identity and their pace in the World – in this case, the world of coffee. So, now we have here a new brand,  %Arabica, which incidentally is Japanese – with their first coffee shop in Kyoto and now expanding to the Gulf, venturing into the most avant grade venue of the Arab world, Dubai and more specifically in the largest mall in the World, Dubai Mall.

I had already heard of this brand about a year ago, when they liked one of my coffee pics on Instagram and then I found out that they were going to open a coffee shop at the Dubai Mall in May 2016 – this seemed to have been postponed until September 2016 and so I knew that once given the opportunity to visit Dubai again, then I would head there, which is what I did in early February.

Located downstairs, just around the corner from the aquarium in Dubai Mall – thus is important because the mall is huge, and on the way to the Souk, opposite Sacoor Brothers is Arabica%.

As you enter, they’ve tried to escape the typical chain mall coffee shop feeling with cold decor and dotted place with coffee bean sacks, brown communal tables and chairs to give you that kind of authentic feel, alluding to their artisanal vibe – we are serious about coffee and if you are looking for Starbuck, head right back out.


They’ve got the kind of brew bar you would find in serious coffee shops in London, New York or Melbourne; 2 x two group slayer espresso machines, matching 2 group mazzer grinders, uber boiler and all the brew options of chemed, V60, etc.


You are prompted to order with a coffee menu, which impatient customers ignore and just ask for “a Latte”. There menu is impressive – they have their house blends but also some special 90+ beans, which will set you back $20 or more for a cup. However, although I think the is great for coffee lovers like me, it may be wise if they had more experienced staff on hand to explain why this latte or filter brew costs $5 and this one costs upwards of $20. I know “geisha” and 90+ coffees are expensive due to their taste profiles, rarity and relatively low production, but for someone just making the conversion from mass style chains to speciality coffee, they need to know that this isn’t just another gimmick.

On that last point, when I placed my order, I decided to go off the list and ask for a Cortado, coupled with some questions on bean origin. I hasten to add a proviso – if someone like me walks into a speciality coffee shop and see all the gadgets and understand all the coffee language, then my expectations are raised in that I expect the staff to be able to handle some basic questions. I did hesitate however on asking them to adjust the brew and pressure gauges like I usually do at Balthasar (Vienna), but that was only because the place was quite busy – my point about the word “Arabica”. On hearing that I wasn’t the typical customer, the head barista,Yash (who I found out later was formerly of Common Grounds, Mall of Emirates and UAE aeropress champion) decided that he would attend to me. During which time we briefly chatted about their focus and about his background and mine.

Ah! one cortado.

On the clientele, it was predominantly locals, Emiratis, dotted with passer byes and coffee aficionados judging by their orders.

After my cup, I decided to walk over and ask some more questions about their coffee, roast profiles etc (I’m sure if my wife was with me, her eyes would have rolled up, followed by a  sigh), but yet again it was Yash to the rescue. After convincing me to buy their house blend which is dark roasted (I am usually not a fan of dark roasted oily beans) and offering me a 90+ espresso shot, I bought a bag of beans, exchanged instagram addresses and was on my way.

In summary, Arabica is a welcome addition to Dubai Mall, which although gigantic, I’ve managed to become accustomed to getting around it without too much difficulty. I’m loving the concept that people are taking their coffee seriously and that even though their many customers might not know it up front, this is a small step in changing peoples perception of coffee. You no longer have to drive out into industrial complexes to get coffee and for tourists like me who don’t have easy access to road transportation, it is great to know that by using the Dubai Metro to the largest mall in the World, you don’t have to suffer with chain coffee but can get a good cuppa, even up till midnight – yes! they close at midnight – now this has to be one of the very few places in the World you can get speciality coffee at close to midnight. The jury might still be out on my “best coffee shop in a mall” award, recently given to Common Grounds (Mall of Emirates – see here), but I think Arabica could be a good contender and will fall in second for now. Nevertheless they are planning a massive expansion in 2017, with new shops planned for the whole Gulf area, Germany, France, USA and even England, so watch out for them.

Well done Arabica for the name and concept and I look forward to visiting many times when I visit Dubai insha’allah.


Drinking Coffee in Cape Town 2016

Flat White at Rosetta

Flat White at Rosetta

If you remember, I used to own a cafe in Cape Town – the time when I pursued my dream to earn from my passion, between 2010 and 2012, with the aptly called Escape Caffe – based on two things – I saw and still see coffee as the drink of the escapist – and secondly, when I used to doddle at work, I broke down the word escape into three things – ES for espresso, CAP for cappuccino and E for eat – okay, so don’t steal my idea because one of these days God willing, I plan to continue my dream – just waiting for the right moment and investor.

Okay, so I had the opportunity to visit Cape Town again for longer than one day (last time was April 2013) and made sure that this time I tried as many cafes as possible. I need to mention that upon my return, it seemed like every corner or space had flourished into some sort of spot offering coffee, some even claiming to be the best – I won’t mention any names. Nevertheless, my list below is by far from exhaustive and there are some that I didn’t really have the opportunity to visit this time, but are still worth mentioning like Loading Bay and Origin Coffee in De Waterkant – Truth Coffee on Buitekant Street and Deluxe Coffeeworks, who now have an additional two coffee shops at 6 Roodehek, in Gardens and 8 Kloof Street to go with their original base at 25 Church Street.

Issi (formerly Escape Caffe), 130 Bree Street, CBD

Okay, so I thought I should start with the place where my cafe used to be. Now under the third owners, Gerald and Jeremy plus one (the last two have left now) the cafe has gone under a vast transformation. Sure, some of the colours were there, as well as the La Marzocco Linea and anfim grinders, but otherwise it’s very different. There are a lot more chairs, more cooked food offerings and my previous office is now a bakery. They get their coffee from a newish roastery and their blend is Isabella, a medium to dark roast. I ordered a double espresso.

Espresso at Issi

Espresso at Issi

Not bad, with lots of crema.

If you’re driving in this vicinity stop by for some coffee. Nearby, there are lots of other cafes, like Honest Cafe, famed for their premium raw chocolate bars, who have now ventured into coffee too. I was already full of coffee by the time I went there. so I just bought chocolate, which I have to confess was one for the best chocolates I’ve ever had. Also, nearby are Bean There, which opened before I left in 2012.

 

Evil Twin/The House of Machines, 84 Shortmarket Street, CBD 

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I must confess, the main reason for stopping at this cafe, was the pic above, which I saw in Conde Nast Traveler’s guide to eating and shopping in Cape Town. I thought it was cool and by the time I stopped here, I was literally panting for coffee on what was a hot day in Cape Town at 27C. House of Machines (HoM) is like a bring your bike and drink coffee place, which I learnt buzzes at night as it moonlights as a biker bar. As it states on their website, it is “fusion of coffee, café, craft beer, cocktails, live music, menswear and custom bikes — the quintessential fine purveyor for the modern man”.

They have 2 organic arabica organic blends, roasted by their master roaster. I ordered a cappuccino due to the confidence of the barista, who promised me I would really like their blend. As they only have large cups for take away, I had to suggest that he cuts the milk as I’m not a big sized cappuccino person.

large cappuccino

large cappuccino

Visit if you like drinking your coffee with loud rock music and harley davidson bikes outside, yeah!

 

Espresso Lab, the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock

I first visited Espresso Lab in October 2009, just before I moved to Cape Town to open Escape Caffe see here. I loved their strict adherence to sourcing and roasting the Nordic way, hence the title, “lab”, which indicates that no mistakes can be made, taking their job very seriously. When I first started my cafe, I used to order coffee from them before I changed to another roaster. Upon my return in 4 years, it’s still as busy as ever, especially on a Saturday at the Neighbourgoods market, where you can taste the World with fresh fruit, juices, smoothies, artisanal bread, sandwiches, eastern fare, burgers and more.

Armed with about 10 staff, stack s of great coffee, 2 two-group La Marzocco GB5, there’s often a queue to order your high quality “caffeine” fix. I went for my fave, Cortado, where you get an even combination of double espresso and well frothed milk;

Cortado at Espressolab

Cortado at Espressolab

Also on offer to go with their well roasted coffee, of which I bought a bag of fruity Ethiopia Sasaba Guji; are coffee tools too. Highly recommended for your coffee fix if and when you visit the Neighbourgoods market – a must if you are ever in Cape Town on a Saturday.

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Rosetta Roastery, Woodstock Exchange, Woodstock

Pretty woman at Rosetta

Pretty woman at Rosetta

So I’ve saved the best for last….

Just as I was about to leave Cape Town and sell off Escape Caffe, Rosetta Roastery were just opening. However, being as busy I was , I didn’t really have any time to visit. After I left, their location was completely brought down and remodelled into the very arty and modern Woodstock Exchange – home to a creative community, where you can buy very trendy furniture, artefacts and more. I had contacted a former and very loyal customer of mine, where to meet for the best coffee in Cape Town and he suggested Rosetta. As you enter Woodstock Exchange, there’s a very trendy foodie bar, Suprette on your left and as you walk a few more metres on your right is Rosetta Roastery, with wooden decors complemented with black tones, but not in an overwhelming way, so that it is cosy but not intimidating. As you enter Rosetta, to your left there’s an array of coffees and coffee brewing equipment to buy and the brew bar greets you with a Kees van der Westen Spirit Duette machine (i.e. a two group fancy machine).

kees van der westen spirit

kees van der westen spirit

Brew Bar @ Rosetta

Brew Bar @ Rosetta

What I liked about their coffee menu was that you can have all their single origin coffees brewed as an espresso – they don’t offer a blend. This is kind of in line with some new thinking in coffee roasting, where roasters are beginning to question the validity of the “espresso” roast, rather than just roasting a coffee to the best of its potential and then brewing it how you like. I must confess, my fave coffee of 2010 was a Brazilian Coffee roasted by Square Mile Coffee, London – see here. It managed to cross all the brewing boundaries and was excellent in at least 4 ways (espresso, cappuccino, americano and even French Press). I digress.

So, I tried one of their Central American blends as a Cortado, mindful that I would be heading to Espresso Lab next. Well brewed and presented as you can see.

yummy

yummy

After which, I picked up a bag of their Colombian single origin arabica coffee to brew at home as an espresso as recommended by one of the staff.

I think the main reason why I really liked Rosetta, is that not only are they seriously committed to roasting and serving you the best coffee they can get hold off, but that the atmosphere is one where you can escape – it’s kind of cosy but in a relaxing way, where you are not intimated – even if you look out of the window, there’s a bit of green in this very concrete mass of a place. The creative atmosphere energy outside seems to have nestled in Rosetta too. I can imagine all the creatives popping in there to chat about new ideas or just day dream about their next venture. Okay, Rosetta is high on my list of cafe to be visited ever.

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Drinking Coffee in Leicester, England


I assume by now you know how to pronounce the word “Leicester”  as LESTER, because if you watch English football, the team that won the premiership, against all odds in what I call the year of the “underdogs” came from this city, which also happens to be the city from where I studied economics at undergraduate level, many moons ago at the University of Leicester. Assumptions aside, on our annual visit to London this summer, I decided to take my family to the city where I attended my first stage of university studies for a day out. As a coffee lover, prior to boarding the train from the gloriously renovated St Pancras train station; it was obvious that I had to research the best places to drink specialty coffee in Leicester, but of course.

 

As we toured my old university, with some of the buildings looking and feeling exactly the same, like the lecture halls and one of the catering halls, I was baffled that the old student union building was completely different, with glass exterior walls and wait for it, a Starbucks. You will be glad to know that I didn’t’ fall into temptation and succumb to satisfy my caffeine pangs for a cup of coffee from Starbucks, but decided to wait for our trip into the old city. I must confess, the pizza I had at the new, well to me at least, student union cafeteria, was one of the best I’ve had, taste and value wise. I had to fight off my wife and kids, who had boringly settled for burgers.

 

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the library, where I often used to hang out 


(notice, I didn’t say study all the time, but hang out), had been revamped and was opened by none other than Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England.

 

St Martin’s Coffee Roasters – St. Martins Square, 2-6 Saint Martins Walk, Leicester LE1 5DG, UK

 

After visiting the Leicester City Football Club – my son insisted – we headed into town. First stop was St. Martins Coffee, which I’m sure must be the most specialty coffee venue in the city, complete with two floors. As you enter from one side, you are greeted with a La Marzocco Linea and lots of coffee roasted on-site to choose from (more on that below). 


They’ve also got delicious looking English style cakes and other drinks on display for non-coffee drinkers, like specialty teas (well their full name is St Martin’s Tea & Coffee Merchants) and soft drinks. The downstairs is decked with your usual comfy leather sofas, steel and wooden chairs together with some cosy spots on the other side of the stairs too. 


As it was a very sunny and warm day – the summer in England was tops this year – it was about 25C; there was also an abundant of chairs, European style, outside.
Heading upstairs, there are more sitting spaces, but the main focus is the roastery, with lots of sacks stuffed presumably with green beans, waiting to be roasted. 


I met the head roaster (I’ve forgotten his name… sorry!), who just graduated from Leeds University but decided to head back home to Leicester – a very young and impressionable chap – he wasn’t even born when I used to live here and visit this space – which was my favourite Italian restaurant in the city (Joe Rigatoni). He shared with me their philosophy to introduce his city to “real” coffee, not compromising on quality and his expansion plans – in fact they are beginning to grow out of their space and plans are to move the roaster to another space to roast more so that they can accommodate an ever increasing number of customers from the food industry too – great!

To test their milk frothing skills, I ordered a cortado – something I don’t usually do in the middle of the afternoon when its 25C outside, but on this occasion, it had to be done. It went quite well with my lemon drizzle cake. Impressed with their offerings, I took two bags of coffee to test at home on my return to Vienna.

 

I found out later on their website that St. Martins are like the go-to-people for coffee in Leicester – by this I mean, they do everything from barista training to selling and leasing espresso machines. If you want to set up a coffee shop in Leicester or in the midlands, they are your guys. They can even develop a blend for your coffee shop if you want and assist with branding and packaging – wow! They are a small family business committed to serious coffee and if you want to find out more, check their website here http://www.stmartinscoffee.co.uk/

So, I’m going to commit myself and say this is probably the best place to get specialty coffee in Leicester with their focus on sourcing and roasting the best beans they can and just being a cool place to hang out too – it’s quite well located in terms of its location, but as it’s just off the main market, you might need google maps or a well-placed local to guide you.

Gourmet Coffee Bar and Kitchen, Leicester Railway Station

So, after my coffee exploits, we had to make a dash to catch our train. Arriving earlier than usual, I decided to test this little coffee spot with another La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, which I had noticed upon our arrival a few hours earlier. Placed right in front of the station exit and as my wife got distracted buying football magazines for our son, I made a dash for it and ordered an espresso to go. 


Not bad, slightly bright but I’m not sure if the paper cup had anything to do with it, but recommended for your way in or out from Leicester nevertheless.

 

So, there you have it, two coffee spots to check out in this smallish city (population of 330,000 based on 2011 census) – If you don’t know why the English call a place a city, then let me inform you thus – in England any place is automatically called a city if it has a cathedral in it – like a big church with an archbishop, no matter what the population or surface area is. For my postgraduate, I went to an even smaller place, Exeter (population of 124,000) but was baffled when it was referred to as a city and that’s when I learnt that it’s the cathedral that makes a city a city.

So, enough of cities for now, if you are feeling adventurous and want to pop out of London for a day trip – it’s only about an hour by train – then check this city out for some medieval landmarks, shopping that’s cheaper than London, Indian food and of course a good cup of coffee.